Fox Won't Air Family Guy Abortion Episode -- What Do You Think?


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The Seth MacFarlane creation that is “Family Guy” has built a reputation on poking animated fun at everything from race to religion to sexuality issues over the course of its seven seasons on the air. However, according to a press release from last week’s Comic Con there is one issue that is just too taboo, even for a show that routinely makes rape jokes. That issue? Abortion.

Apparently, the next season of “Family Guy” contains an episode that deals with abortion. While Fox (the network that airs “Family Guy”) originally paid for production of the episode, now they are saying they will not air it. Said MacFarlane at Comic Con, “20th Century Fox, as always, allowed us to produce the episode and then said, ‘You know what? We’re scared to f–king death of this.’”

Says this press release from Fox:

Fox will not air the ‘Partial Terms of Endearment’ episode of Family Guy, but we fully support the producers’ right to make the episode and distribute it in whatever way they want

Now “Family Guy” has not historically been a bastion for feminist politics (the title “Partial Terms of Endearment” might indicate as much), nor has it really championed any particularly progressive causes beyond simply pushing the envelope when it comes to the way people think of animated television. The problem with the abortion issue, then, is not that we feminists are looking to “Family Guy” to speak up for our reproductive rights. It’s that Fox is choosing to censor this topic when they appear to be completely fine with airing these other episodes next season (according to zap2it):

- An episode in which Brian gets drunk, drives and then hits a dog. This show is always great at making us feel uncomfortable … and damned for laughing. Also, Lois hires a maid Consuela, Superman’s maid.
- Hentemann says that Peter meets and has an affair with a cardboard cutout of Kathy Ireland. What will Lois think?
- Mila: “There’s an episode when Meg goes to jail and comes back a little bit tougher, a little bit meaner and little more manly.” The subject of prison rape is brought up at panel, but we’re not sure if they’re joking or not. You never know when it comes to “Family Guy.”

So it’s fine to air a show dealing with prison rape, sexual harassment (no way is that cardboard cutout sex consensual), and drunk driving, but abortion is somehow waaaaay too taboo for television? No wonder some people are contacting Fox to complain.

While it is likely that the episode (which will be available on DVD) doesn’t do the reproductive rights movement any huge favors, censoring it also sends a cultural message that discussion of abortion is off-limits, even though a musical number performed by abandoned prom night dumpster babies gets two thumbs up. Will we ever normalize abortion on television, or will it always be a censored topic? Would you like to see this episode of “Family Guy” air on Fox, or do you think that our abortion rights are better off without the “Family Guy” treatment?

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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18 Comments Have Been Posted

Gotta be honest here

If Family Guy went off the air, I wouldn't shed a tear. I don't despise it, I've laughed at some episodes but on the whole, meh. There are actually more objectionable episodes and story lines than what you listed (and what's this thing about Meg being "ugly" and a "man?" This isn't the first time either. ugg). Brian and Stewie amuse me a little but the show is overrated. I agree it is not progressive but it pushes boundaries. For the sake of pushing boundaries.

I am against censorship in any form so the issue of censorship concerns me more than abortion rights (especially since I wouldn't rely on Family Guy to be positive about it since it's so anti-woman, no matter what McFarlane thinks). Besides, I think this hype is supposed to help sell DVDs. It's not like the banning of two episodes of the Boondocks on adultswim.

re: Meg

I always thought they treated Meg so badly as a statement about the way young girls really are treated if they aren't stick skinny with big breasts. Think about it. Meg isn't hideous by any means. She's pretty much average, and therefore society (in the Family Guy world) abhors her and treats her like crap. Pretty fair statement about society (in the real world) I think.

However, you can believe you are pro-woman and still fall prey to cultural misogyny. It's my guess that, while Seth MacFarlane might call himself pro-woman, he doesn't realize the negative impact some of the jokes have on the viewers who watch the show. For example, he might make a rape joke to keep rape from being invisible in the scope of television, without realizing how that specific joke might make rape seem, to some viewers, as not such a big deal.

But maybe I'm giving too much credit. I think, in reality, there are some jokes/characters the writers really think about and some jokes they just spit out because they think they're funny.


"She's pretty much average, and therefore society (in the Family Guy world) abhors her and treats her like crap. Pretty fair statement about society (in the real world) I think"

I see what you're saying, but that's not true anymore. It is a criticism, but they don't treat her poorly to make a statement, they're just a bunch of nerdy guys that never dated in high school.

Family Guy makes jokes about EVERYONE. Nothing is off-topic. So it's not misogynistic.


A show can make fun of everything and still be misogynistic. As noted in my post about Family Guy vs. South Park, Family Guy makes abortion jokes that ridicule abortion protesters, while South Park makes abortion jokes that vilify abortion. Both shows go out of their way to make fun of "everything" (in quotes because it is impossible, of course, to literally mock everything). But it is the context and message that determine whether they are misogynistic.

The statement is complicated further because men and women can be mocked in different ways: you can't make fun of a man for having an abortion. Thus, if a show claims to mock everything but in reality mocks women much more, or judges them more harshly, it can still be misogynistic.

We might also look to the way things are mocked: in a rape joke, is rape itself, the perpetrator or the victim mocked?If a rapist is mocked, I might not have a problem with it (depending on other specifics) because I don't think rape should be made invisible. But if the victim is mocked, does the show escape a misogynistic label simply because it mocks a bunch of other things?

So you're saying it's

So you're saying it's misogynistic because Meg is the butt of everyone's jokes?

I don't see how your comparison to South Park is relevant. It's different animators, and a different network that it's on. They're two different shows.

And so because men can't have abortions, and women can, and they make fun of abortion, it's mocking women more? Come on. There was one episode where Peter goes in for a physical and the doctor gives him a prostate exam and he thinks that the doctor raped him and reports it, and then all of the men in the town freak out because they received prostate exams as well. So obviously because women can't have prostate exams, they're mocking men more. The show doesn't judge women too harshly, look at all of the women on the show. They're the smart ones, and the men are portrayed as disgusting idiots (besides Meg, but they only treat her as such for reasons I listed above).

No. That's not what I'm saying.

In fact, that's not what I said. In my detailed comment. Which I assume you read.

I'm saying I disagree with the statement that a show CAN'T be misogynistic because it makes fun of everything. I never said the show was misogynistic because of the way they treat Meg. In fact, I never said the show was misogynistic. Did you not read my comment?

Also, I don't see how my comparison to South Park is irrelevant because it's a different show. Uh, that's what makes it a comparison. The topic of this article is Family Guy doing an abortion episode. Therefore, I brought up the fact that South Park, an animated show that also attempts to mock as many things as possible, does abortion episodes. See?

I understand what you're

I understand what you're trying to say.

It's just that South Park is allowed more leeway because it's on Comedy Central and NOT on Fox. They have two entirely different sets of viewers. I was always puzzled as to why FG was on Fox to begin with, and it's been cancelled twice. If South Park were on Fox and did an abortion episode and it wasn't canned, then I could see the comparison. Or if The Simpsons did an episode about abortion and it was allowed to air.

You know what's annoying?

You know what's annoying? When someone believes that there opinion is fact.

You have absolutely no idea what these people were like in high school. There is absolutely nothing to back up your statement about them being nerdy and not dating in high school. On top of that, the statement makes absolutely no sense what so ever. Just because you dated in high school does not mean you know any more about a teenage girl than someone who didn't date.

You learn absolutely nothing about women by dating, since women only let you see what they want you to see. In high school everything is about appearance and impressions. You have no idea what anyone is like when you are not around.

Out of everything you said the only thing that made any inkling of sense is them not knowing how to handle a teenage girl, which is a definite possibility. It most likely has nothing to do with high school dating, but more so that they've never experienced life as a teenage girl. However, there are women on the show that have, which means if they needed to understand things they had people that could answer questions.

I'm more inclined to believe that the show is more likely satirizing the way society treats average. In an age where, "skinny is beautiful", and every where you look it's always about supermodels and celebrities, there is no place for "average" anymore. Even those who are nothing more than average make fun of others for the same. Fat people making fun of fat people, ugly people making fun of ugly people. I think it's about time society stopped praising the 90 pound supermodels and the surgically altered and makeup caked celebrities, and started showing people that average is good, and the majority of our society is exactly that, just average.

I didn't realize someone

I didn't realize someone would get that offended.

Anyways, here's the proof: (6th bullet point up from the bottom).

Granted, I misquoted, and basically Seth McFarlane said that the reason why the treat Meg so badly is because it's a bunch of male writers not knowing how to write for a teenage girl. My apologies in not getting the quote right.

And I don't know what planet you live on, but I see underweight celebrities get criticized for being too skinny all the time. Look at the flack Lindsey Lohan is getting by the gossip mags and sites. People are telling her to gain weight. Also, Spain has made new BMI regulations regarding their runway models. The days of heroin chic supermodels are over.

Normalizing abortion

"Will we ever normalize abortion on television[?]" -- Two thoughts:

1) The closest example I can recall in which a character obtained a no fuss, no muss abortion was Claire in "Six Feet Under" ("Do you think you can give me a ride?" she asks another [female] character. "I have to get an abortion.") That said, the rest of the series had some recurring, ambiguously anti-abortion memes which slightly negates this pretty damn awesome scene.

2) Will we ever normalize abortion, period? Not even film characters can muster the courage to say the a-word, much less actually act on it without punishment.


it's the money, silly!

I just wrote <a href="">a post at Flavorwire</a> about this actually. I think it's just another attempt to get media attention for the show and to sell the next season of DVDs. This isn't the first time they've pulled this stunt, but let's hope it's the last. You know the old saying, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice..."

funny because it is taboo

I would love to see this episode. I really enjoy Family Guy. They make a lot of jokes that are racist, sexist, homophobic, ect, but the reason its funny is because they know that the things said are totally wrong. Sometimes I laugh because they're crossing a line, such as the prom dumpster baby thing. There is a difference between doing something tongue-and-cheek and then saying a totally racist joke in complete seriousness. If Peter Griffin made some joke about people of color, its totally different than if some co-worker made the same joke. The characters on Family Guy are a means to show society a sort-of "What Not To Do" family because if there was a family that actually acted this way, we would be totally disgusted and shun them. The creators know this and that is what makes us laugh. Its ridiculous because no one would act this way and the ridiculous part is the part that is funny.

Family Guy Pro-Choice?

Family Guy has made several abortion references in the past. Lois attempted to have an abortion with both Meg and Chris, but for one reason or another (i.e. the doctor had no hands) it didn't work out. Peter's mother tried to abort him in Mexico but the abortion was simply some kids hitting her like a Pinata and Peter came out alive.

In fact, there is an episode that openly mocks abortion protesters. (A woman shows up at the Griffins' as an aborted fetus for Halloween. She is portrayed as completely insane.)

The nature of the jokes in the past has been either neutral or subtly pro-choice.

They also did an episode on stem cell research where Peter had a stroke, walked into a stem cell research facility and, five minutes later, was healed. His response:

"Why are we not USING this!?"

So my guess would be that Macfarlane is pro-choice, which is probably why the episode is being banned.

I actually stopped watching the show specifically because of the rape jokes, but I have enjoyed their more political episodes in the past.

A few other notes:

Of course FOX will air rape jokes, because rape takes away female choice. Of course they won't allow an episode about an actual abortion. That promotes female choice.

South Park has aired several episodes on abortion and stem cell research: episodes condemning Planned Parenthood, an episode about Cartman misusing stem cell research, an episode about Christopher Reeves misuing stem cell research (classy, right?), and Mrs. Garrison (Mr. Garrison post-sex change) wanting to get an abortion as part of the "female experience." There was also an episode where Cartman advises a female student that an abortion is the ultimate form of cheating (he is teaching an entire class how to cheat through the SATs.) One might say South Park can air these episodes because they're on Comedy Central, but the reality is, the abortion jokes on South Park are extremely anti-choice and always reflect negatively on abortion.

My guess is that's why they're allowed to air their episodes and Family Guy is not. I guess only time will tell.


If it is offensive to someone they can always choose another chanel! I find it funny that Fox views a Family guy episode to be in bad taste ,but airs comercials about vagina duches, herpies creams, errection aids ,sanitary Products for periods,and hemroidal rectom cream durring meal times. You have to love our country!

Now I definitely can count

Now I definitely can count the number of liberals in the USA.
Family Guy is one of the most hilarious shows on television. If someone hates it, it just means that he has a lame or stuffy sense of humor and are probably not human anyhow=)
By the way, it seems to me South Park did an episode about abortion several years ago, it was very funny!

Hatred as Hip

I work with a group of men who are avid fans of this show. They represent well its key audience: they are all Caucasian former fraternity members, who consider themselves to be cutting-edge connaisseurs of entertainment. They are also rabidly racist misogynes. . . not that they think so. They imagine themselves to be edgy intellectuals who oppose 'political-correctness' because it hinders "free speech." They don't bother, of course, to put themselves in the place of those who have historically been denied freedom of any kind, let alone the freedom to dehumanize others through "humor" at others' expense.
Fans of this show may tell themselves that they're laughing at satire but the ugly truth is that they're upholding the very old status quos of racism and misogyny in a 'new' time.

Yes, The Meg-Bashing *Is* Misogyny

"So you're saying it's misogynistic because Meg is the butt of everyone's jokes?"

Yep! When a female character has no personality, and her sole purpose on the show is to have her appearance mocked by the male characters ("oh ha ha you're ugly, ain't no-one gonna wanna fuck YOU!"), then yeah, I'd definitely say so. Oh, and the whole "Meg's a man" theme? Kinda transphobic, too.

Looks like it's Fun With Feminist Inversions time!

Let's say we have a show where a male stripper gets beaten to death with a chair by the show's main female character; the husband gets forcibly tied up and put in the trunk of a car that's driven into a lake by his wife and female infant as part of their mother-daughter bonding ritual; the son is made to feel like an ugly piece of shit by every female he encounters, his whole identity revolving around the fact that he is perceived as unfuckable by the show's girls and women; the son is despised by his mother, sisters and the show's (female) talking dog for his ugliness, and told (by the dog) "If God exists, would She have created someone as ugly as you?" in lieu of a rational argument; the show's female sex predator preys exclusively on underage boys, and is delighted to find a hunky young footballer shackled to the toliet, where (it's implied) she's going to rape him; the male characters are the show's uptight moralists, whereas the women (while stupid) are also the funny ones that everyone identifies with and get to make rude jokes at the boys' expense and go on ker-azy adventures (and because they're so stupid, never get held accountable for their actions); the female sex predator has a bunch of male hookers in the trunk of her car, and when they escape, she shrugs her shoulders and goes, "myeh, I'll catch 'em later"; husband-bashing, violence against men, sexual abuse of men and male rape are routine punchlines on the show, and are so frequent as to be unremarkable.

Do you think that maybe, just MAYBE, this show wouldn't have a terribly huge fan base? That men would (justifiably) be up in arms about its man-hating and (if they were of a stupid MRA persuasion) say that that the Fox network was controlled by a bunch of feminazi lezbollahs?

Look, I *get* the impluse to defend shows you like from charges of sexism/racism/homophobia/whatever. I do the same with South Park and David Lynch. But I would *never* deny that this show/director have *no* misogyny whatsoever. Because they certainly do. I like them *in spite* of their sexism, because I see enough that's positive in them to for them to still be enjoyable to me. If you can do the same with Family Guy, cool. But please don't deny that the show is at least sometimes guilty of misogyny, because that would be intellectually dishonest.


"I like them *in spite* of their sexism, because I see enough that's positive in them to for them to still be enjoyable to me."

Massive grammar Fail. That should read: "because I see enough that's positive in them for them to still be enjoyable to me."

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